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Changes under my rule as king
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Forsyth County News
Too many critical issues get lost in the fuss over the economy, policies toward Iraq and Afghanistan, national security, health care, education and immigration and the like. I thought it would be useful to try to put things in proper perspective.

It all began a number of years ago. Frequently, when things happen (or don’t happen) the way I think they should, I’ll let out a growl and offer less-than-flattering comments about the people responsible, as well as advice about how the world should be.

I don’t discriminate. No issue is too small or too large. A few are being addressed by heads of state. Unfortunately, many others, truly monumental, suffer from neglect — matters such as traffic lights that stay red for too long.

My wife, Beverly, usually the sole recipient of my sage observations, has adopted a stoic attitude toward my utterances. Her typical response is usually: “Yes, and when you are king, you can change that.”

That got me thinking. Given the insanity of American politics, the less-than stellar opinion the general public holds of Congress and the way the three branches of government don’t seem to work together, it occurred to me that the next evolutionary step for the electorate might be to decide that it wants a king.

George Washington rejected the idea, but he lacked the perspective of hindsight. Consequently, in anticipation of this eventuality, I became the first to declare my availability for the position. I’ve been waiting patiently for the throngs to appear at my door.

At the time I first tossed my crown into the ring, I thought it only fair that the voters knew what wisdom and perceptivity they would be getting.
The first issue I addressed was a real sticky one. It dealt with the people who prepare and distribute those little packets of mustard, ketchup and mayonnaise that you’ll find at fast food restaurants all over the nation. These are the packets that can’t be opened without breaking your teeth or getting the stuff all over your hands, clothes and the floor.

It was a brilliant piece of analysis, including appropriate penalties. How do I know it was brilliant? Because not a single action came out of Congress to correct the situation. Obviously, the special interest groups had countered my arguments with relish,  dressing down any legislator who was prone to act.

Today I want to tackle two equally important issues. The first deals with clockmakers. For many decades, perhaps centuries, we all used clocks with wind-up springs. More recently, everything has gone digital. This change has been detrimental in several ways.

First, the wind-up clock forced you to recognize the passage of time, typically at least once a day. Now the days just go whizzing by at their own, ever-accelerating pace and we wonder where they went.

Second, you had to get up, walk over to the clock and wind the little knob. We’ve all seen what the elimination of that element has done with respect to the incredible figures on overweight Americans. The Amalgamated Clock Winders Association estimates that every day that passes means that 3,875,426,749.4 calories are left unburned.

But, perhaps, more importantly, time no longer moves forward in uniform fashion. Let me explain.

We all know that you can set a clock by the time a TV show starts or stops. It’s always on the hour or the half hour. But try that today. You will frequently find that your clock is off by a minute or even two.

A show that starts at 8 p.m. may end, according to your clock, at 9:02. Since we know that the TV networks, under the caring supervision of the FCC, are considerate people who would never purposely end shows late in order to block viewers from switching to shows on other networks, the only possible assumption is that digital clocks are erratic.

Adding two minutes to a one-hour time span means that our calendar is in jeopardy. Leap years will leap more often, the speed of light will vary, and most importantly, the bed time for young children will change every night.

The problem seems to have at least two obvious solutions. One would be to revert to the old wind-up devices. But do we, as a nation, still have the physical strength and agility to turn the little handle?

The second would be to abolish television. At least then, no one will be aware of the problem. Additionally, and I won’t go into them here, other benefits from this second solution might be incredible.

The second issue relates to labels, like the ubiquitous labels that adorn every piece of fruit sold in U.S. supermarkets. These are the labels that require demolition of much of the product for removal.

Other labels, affixed to manufactured products, require a blowtorch and a jack hammer, often resulting in a second purchase to replace the one just damaged. And still other labels are designed to cover price and critical product information.  

The solution to this problem is simple. Every store in the country would be required to have a separate department for label removal. Each industry would be required to establish a school to train professional label removers. Once the customer passed through the checkout counter, the chief label remover would assess the situation and assign the tasks to the appropriate removal teams. In case any labels got through, each store would be required to have a house call team.

A special government agency would be established to oversee this activity. To keep things within bounds, its size and budget would be limited to no more than two times that of the Defense Department. This could be part of the stimulus package, virtually eliminating unemployment within the nation.

Those who violate the above laws would be subject to the severest of penalties. Some may call it cruel and inhuman punishment, but first offense violators would be sentenced to spend no less than one month sitting in front of their TV sets, watching House and Senate “debates” on C-SPAN. Repeat offenders, if any, longer. Drastic measures are needed to remedy these problems.

It’s time that we begin to focus on the important issues in life and the matters that truly shape the world. We also need a bit more frivolity and a few more smiles.

Dr. Melvyn Copen lives in both Georgia and Arizona. He is an educator and businessman who has worked and lived in many foreign countries and provides consulting services throughout the world. His column appears every other Wednesday. Please share your comments with him via e-mail at